Carving Out a Place For Joy

A black-and-white photo of a woman in an evening gown looking sad while writing a letter at a desk with a single candle.
Her creative well is empty. Also, I totally look this nice while writing. 😉

It’s been about a month since I turned in book two of Starlight’s Shadow, and I’m finally starting to decompress and think about book three. My life would probably be a lot easier if I worked at a steady rate all the time instead of in bursts fueled by deadline panic, but I’ve made peace with my process. :)

The downtime immediately after a deadline is when I do a lot of the administrative tasks that get pushed off when in I’m in crunch time—things like creating promo graphics, updating the website, and cleaning the house. It’s also the time when I give myself permission to work on whatever catches my interest.

Which is how I started writing a little magical fantasy romance story (very) loosely inspired by beauty and the beast.

It’s supposed to be a short story, but we’ll see. It’s already 5k, so it’ll probably turn into a novelette, assuming I finish it at all. One of the joys of writing for pure fun is the complete lack of expectations. I’ll write until it’s not fun anymore (or until I need to start on book three) and no one will be disappointed by the lack of ending except for me.

One of the things I’ve really had to grapple with is that once I turned writing into a job, it became work. It’s work I love, granted, but it’s still work. It seems obvious, but it’s not, exactly. It’s insidious, until creating for pure joy suddenly becomes “I really should be working on X, instead” because there is always some X that needs doing.

No matter how fast I write, there will always be an X lurking in the back of my mind as the “better” use of my time. And purely from an economic standpoint, that’s not entirely wrong.

But from a creative standpoint, all of those expectations and demands can kill creativity, especially straight off deadline.

Creating for pure fun is an important part of refilling the well, the inner space where ideas are born. An empty creative well sucks all the joy from writing—assuming one can write at all. I can power through for a while, but it’s agony.

So guard those moments of joyful creation, and carve out space for them, even if it’s just five minutes.

Then, hopefully, if everything aligns, the project you have to do becomes a source of joy, too, because your well is full. And there is no better feeling than writing a story that is flowing perfectly.

I can tell I’m nearly there because I’m starting to think about the characters for book three rather than avoiding it like the plague, lol. And even if the short story goes nowhere, those words weren’t wasted. They were exactly the escape my brain needed. :)

7 thoughts on “Carving Out a Place For Joy”

  1. As women, we tend to do that always think we should be doing something else. I have been self-employed most of my life and it’s difficult to separate work time from pleasure. But you are so correct that it is what “refills the well” and what your brain needs!
    I love everything you write! And in case you do finish your “little downtime book” we would love to read it!

    1. You’ve touched on such an important point. Hence my effort to win the lottery – what would I do simply for the love of it, if I wasn’t bound by “work” and the ensuing bill paying that follows? A small part of me fears that should I finally win, I would read so enthusiastically for the rest of my life that I risk forgoing all productive activities entirely…. But I really think this is something I should learn through experience, don’t you?

  2. In many ways I’m glad I just write for fun, because I can write without having to worry about what will sell. Someday I may self publish, but I’m not truly worried about it. (As my husband jokes, “Even if you make 5 dollars from your writing, that’s more than you make now” haha.)

    Beauty and the Beast is my favorite fairy tale, so I’d buy it if you published it. But regardless, it’s good to recharge.

  3. I’ve done this with both coding and quilting- for me it works best to keep it short, as in “code Conway’s Game of Life in one workday” or “finish a baby quilt in 4 hours”. There’s definitely a certain freedom in just throwing away the rules and going for it.

    My favorite story of this kind of “refilling the well” comes from Richard Feynman. Here’s an excerpt of his book that describes how goofing around got him the Nobel Prize:

  4. I am not artistic, so it is interesting to “hear” how you operate. In my experience, after awhile, any job can become boring, contributing to burn out. So keep changing things.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.